Everyone talks about fasting like it’s a big deal. But you can’t really boost your metabolism, lose weight, and build lean muscle all at the same time… right?
Here is the scientific secret to build muscle while burning fat— plus the easiest way to boost your metabolism up to 14%!
Fasting and Muscle Loss
If you have read our Guidelines, you probably noticed that we encourage fasting.
(If you haven’t grabbed them already, grab them now. They outline everything you need to know for healthy weight loss.)
Now back to fasting… A lot of people skip this step because they are afraid that fasting will make them lose muscle mass.
The reason for this fear? Over the last 15 or so years, you have been told to eat every 3 hours to stoke your metabolism. The theory goes that after three hours, your body goes into starvation mode and you start to burn muscle for fuel.
Catabolism in 24-48 Hours? False.
This myth has kept some people up at night. Literally. Some people set an alarm so they can wake up to eat a meal in the middle of the night because they are afraid of losing muscle if they don’t feed their body frequently enough.
It’s doubtful your body evolved to eat its own muscles every night. For hunter gatherers who went without food for much longer periods of time, this would be a deadly adaptation.
Fasting for 12, 24 or even 48 hours is a far cry from starvation mode. Your body has plenty of resources to draw upon during that time without going into catabolism and eating precious muscle.
In fact, fasting reduces cortisol levels– cortisol being the thing needed to catabolize, or break muscles down.
And the earliest sign of actual starvation happens somewhere around 60 to 96 hours– not in a mere 3 to 48.
In terms of stoking your metabolism, fasting is a sure-fire way to do it. Fasting can INCREASE your metabolism by up to 14%!1
How Do We Actually Lose Muscle?
Have you ever broken a bone and had to wear a cast or had a friend who did?
When the cast was removed, what did the healed limb look like? An eerily shrunken version of the opposite limb; right?
It’s probably safe to assume that there was no change in diet or extreme weight loss during that time. But the muscles wasted away. This is called disuse atrophy. When you immobilize muscles like you do with a cast, they start to decrease in size.
The freaky thing is, they start shrinking almost instantly.
A study conducted on 22 male and females had them wear casts on their right leg for just 2 weeks. There was no change to their nutrition. And their thigh muscles decreased in size– by a whopping 10%!2
Now imagine what 2 weeks of bed rest does to a body. Or spending all day, every day nearly motionless as you work at a desk, drive in your car, and go home to watch TV?
Caloric restriction is not the reason you lose muscle. A lack of movement is.
The Weight Loss Unicorn: Lose Fat While Gaining Muscle
If you have ever been to the gym, you’ve heard this refrain: you can’t lose fat and gain muscle at the same time.
It seems logical. It would be like tearing down a building while laying new brick.
This argument is based on another myth: calories in, calories out. It says that in order to lose fat you have to eat fewer calories. In order to gain muscle you have to eat more. And that the chances of striking any kind of balance would be like winning the lottery.
But that is an oversimplification of how your body works.
Here’s How You Really Lose Fat
Your body deals with different fuels via different pathways. When you eat carbohydrates, they can be used for energy or stored as fat. Protein can be used to build muscles (and other body parts) and as fuel in a pinch. Fat is stored or burned for energy.
To lose fat on your body, you need to cut the energy taken in from carbohydrates, especially simple starches and sugars. This eliminates carbs as a fuel source from your body, and excess carbs can no longer be stored as fat. Your body starts to burn its own fat stores for energy, and protein goes about its day building lean tissue like muscles.
When you eat like this, you have virtually unlimited calories to use as fuel— in the form as body fat.
In this mode, you can GAIN MUSCLE WHILE BURNING FAT.
This is an ideal state for your body (and your health). And this is how Personal Trainer Food works.
What a High-Carb Diet Does to Muscle…
Now, let’s say you shift the way you eat, lowering your calories and eating more carbohydrates than protein. Like other diets would have you do.
With carbohydrates available for energy, you stop burning fat on your body as fuel. And now there is less protein available to build muscle, too.
Over time, you will LOSE MUSCLE WHILE GAINING FAT.
Yikes. This diet doesn’t work very well at all!
And this is exactly why people have been lead to believe that if you lose more than 2 pounds of fat a week you are losing muscle. You definitely will on this diet.
That won’t happen with Personal Trainer Food, even with major fat loss results.
Check out Officer Torres. He followed our RECON program and lost 23 pounds in 8 weeks.
Does it look like he lost muscle?
Here’s a fact: Officer Torres was undergoing cancer treatments during his challenge. Treatments which should have caused him to gain fat and lose muscle. But even with the odds against him, he did the opposite. And he looks great!
We aren’t alone in getting fat loss results while gaining muscle.
Old, Young, Athletic, or Not: You Can Do It Too
In a randomized study of other overweight police officers, researchers got similar results: on average they traded 9.3 pounds of fat for 8.8 pounds of muscle on a moderate resistance training, high protein diet in 12 weeks.3 (Much like RECON)
A group of NCAA football players did the same, even showing gains in strength while they lost fat.4
Another study put elite female gymnasts on a low-carb diet. Over 30 days, the gymnasts lost body fat with NO negative effects on strength and performance.5
Yet another study involved men and women around 61 years old, an age where muscle losses are notorious. They were put on a higher protein diet along with a moderate resistance training program. The results? Their body weight was unchanged, but they gained more lean muscle.6
The common denominators in these studies: movement and protein.
It doesn’t matter if you are an elite athlete like the football players and gymnasts, or more normal folks like police officers and 61 year olds. Movement, along with a low-carbohydrate diet can lead to gains in muscle strength and size while you lose fat.
PTF Guidelines Work
Our guidelines tell you to walk at least 20 minutes a day, every day. If you are following RECON, there is a simple exercise routine you can do, too. But none of our recommendations involve killer workouts. You don’t need them to lose weight and gain muscle.
As we learned above, moving your muscles 20 minutes a day (every day!) will preserve and even build lean muscle mass. Eating a diet higher in protein and lower in sugars and starches will cut fat from your body.
(This is true unless you are a bodybuilder or fitness pro working at very low body fat levels already. At that extreme, you would do complicated “cutting” and “bulking” cycles.)
For those of us who just want a healthier, leaner body, you can boost your metabolism, gain muscle, and lose fat– on a far simpler plan like Personal Trainer Food.
If you have decided that you are going to try fasting to accelerate fat loss, bravo! It’s easier than you think. Here are some strategies that will get you started.
If you have questions about this article, we’d be happy to help! Drop a comment below and we’ll follow up with you.
You can also like us on Facebook –ask us anything!
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About the Writer: 100 pounds ago, Jan knew what it is like to be obese, unhappy, and stuck. She has spent the last 17 years as a fitness writer, trainer, yoga teacher, and Weight Loss Coach. Today, she’s proud to be a part of the Personal Trainer Food team so she can continue her goal to help others live their fullest lives possible. Email Jan@PersonalTrainerFood.com if you have any questions!
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Weight loss results not guaranteed and are based on various factors. Copyright © 2021 Personal Trainer Food, All rights reserved.
Melissa McGurren says
So how many carbs a day for optimal weightloss?
Janis Hauser says
Hi there, Melissa! For most people, somewhere around 30 to 50 grams of carbs a day is good for weight loss without going totally no-carb. (: